Saturday, September 18, 2010


There are certain words in a language which evoke memories, others that paint pictures. For me ‘vicarious’ is one such word. I first discovered the word while preparing for my GMAT or something; I think the book I was using was “Word Power Made Easy” (excellent book by the way).

Vicarious means to experience at secondhand, as in: "read about mountain climbing and felt vicarious excitement".

At first I was a bit surprised that a word exists to describe this. Language follows life, and so if a word exists for a human condition or emotion, than that condition must also exist quite a bit. Of course I realized quickly that the entire entertainment industry is based around it. We watch Superman beat up the bad guys and vicariously enjoy a world where the good guys always win. We watch Nadal win the grand slam and vicariously experience the thrill of victory and athletic excellence.

It sounds a bit defeatist at first, specially when you are young, since vicarious enjoyment of something sounds like a compromise – why can’t you do it for yourself instead of watching others ? why must we deal in second-hand thrills ?

But you also realize that you cannot do everything, even though you long to. You need to focus on what you are good at – or want to be good at, and still draw satisfaction from the fact that others are good at what they do.

Some things are meant to be taken down and used; others are meant to be savored even as they stay on the mantelpiece.

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